Serena Mira Asta
Alice Lundy Blum
Of Indoor Parking
Rita had no reason to believe I wouldn’t show up that morning.
She didn’t know. Who did? It would have been our seventh or
eighth date. We enjoyed each other and she suggested we move in
together. It wasn’t out of the question. Seemed
If there was one thing I learned down at the Center from all the
counseling and all the classes it was to trust my intuition.
Another was to develop good conversation skills.
Rita didn’t talk much and that’s why I liked her. She was kind,
didn’t exercise, and rarely got her nails done as far as I could
tell. We made an okay couple. I didn’t own a sofa or
kitchen table. She did.
We were supposed to go out for breakfast the morning it happened.
If it was warm enough we were going to sit outside on the patio at our
favorite restaurant. It was warm enough.
I went to the airport instead. I followed the lane signs with the
bold white arrows into the underground garage for long term
parking. I spiraled down and down, steady pressure on the
steering wheel, pressed against the door, around and down, dizzy down
to the lowest level possible, and then I was there.
We built this one deep. I drove to the far corner where no one
else dared to park, where only a few lights and silence hung in the air.
I stared at the concrete wall in front of me. Water seeped
through the joints and left wiggly trails on the way to the
floor. Pipes that went nowhere were strapped to the ceiling.
I kept the car running and turned off the radio. The tires were
almost bald and the whole thing rattled. The brakes were
new. I could stop if I wanted to.
I could smell the earth behind the concrete wall, the sand and gravel
dumped and tamped years ago during construction. Still
there. I drove a back-hoe at the time. It was a good job,
good income, something to go to and come home from, a constant in my
life. I needed a constant.
A couple of years ago a drunk smashed head on into my wife’s car.
They both died. Hurray. A drunk and a drunk’s wife.
She deserved better. She was innocent and wonderful. We
were happy and loved each other. I had to start drinking again,
and I did. Lost everything. Why not? I met Rita about
a year later and stopped.
I turned off the car. My ears absorbed the soft nothingness of
the dark cavern and it felt good. Everything was still. I
remembered building this underground mess, pushing gravel and sand,
pouring concrete, losing my wife. Then we covered the whole thing
up with fresh dirt and planted grass on top.
Now you can’t see what we built unless you pay for parking and drive
down into the lower levels. And then there wasn’t much to
see. You had to be here when it was built to see and understand
how sunlight once filled the bottom of this hole.
Blueprints and dirt. Concrete. People leave their cars here
and pick them up later. Come and go. I stayed.
Whispers From the Animal Shelter
Bob lowered his head onto his arms and fell asleep at the kitchen
table. He was middle aged so he felt entitled. He lost his
wife nearly a decade ago and had an abundance of free time which he
felt slipping through his fingers along with the rest of his life.
He woke up and made a decision - no more networking, facebooking or
anything electronic. He gave up computers, the internet, and cell
phones. Got himself a landline. That’s all he needed.
No one called anyway so what was the point? His unemployment
checks would stop in a few weeks so cutting back seemed like a good
idea. A hobby might be nice but he couldn’t think of anything he
liked to do.
A dog barked. It was the only thing that happened that morning of any
importance. Bob raised his head and looked out the back
window. The grass was brown and matted from winter. A collie spun
in happy circles and barked. No collar and no reason to bark that
Bob could see.
How did it get through the fence? Was it a stray or did someone
dump it in his backyard? It was rabid no doubt. Bob watched
it spin around and bark until it got interested in something at the
fence and loped over to smell it.
Bob’s landline rang for the first time in weeks. He ignored
it. He opened the back door and whistled. The dog tensed
and looked, then went back to smelling the dirt near the fence.
Bob whistled again but this time with vigor and authority, like dog
owners did. The dog charged across the lawn, through the open
door and into Bob’s kitchen. It slipped and sprawled on the tile
floor. It looked vicious to Bob but there wasn’t a trace of foam
at the mouth.
Bob kept the back door wide open just in case the dog changed his
mind. He closed it when a woman trotted into his yard and yelled,
“Yoga, Yoga, here Yoga!” She carried a leash with an empty collar
swinging from the end. She searched back and forth and whistled
and clapped and called, “Yoga, Yoga.”
It was a small yard. She should have known right away that Yoga
wasn’t there but she lingered long enough for Bob to notice her
athletic legs. She wasn’t afraid to let her hair go gray.
He liked it because it wasn’t all frizzy. Bob might have been
interested in meeting her if she hadn’t named her dog Yoga.
Yoga sniffed the air through the crack of the door and wanted to be let
out. He looked at Bob with soft brown eyes expecting Bob to open
the door as if he had done it a million times before. This
familiarity unnerved Bob.
“Your name is… Barney. No. Cucumber. Your name is
Cucumber. How does that sound? Better than Yoga. Who
the hell would name a dog Yoga? Nice Cucumber.” Cucumber bared
his teeth and growled.
Someone knocked at the front door and the race was on. Cucumber
took off first and Bob chased him through the kitchen, dining room,
living room to the front door. Bob won because he knew the
route. Cucumber wagged his tail.
Someone knocked again, louder this time. Bob peeked through a
side window. The woman who named a dog Yoga stood on the porch.
Cucumber barked. “Shush, shhh, Cucumber, quiet.” He herded
Cucumber into a closet, shut the door, and took a quick breath.
There was another knock on the door. It didn’t sound as if she
would ever give up. Bob opened the door.
“Hi, I’m looking for my dog, she got away, it’s a collie, have you seen her?”
“No I’m sorry, I haven’t.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure. I haven’t seen a dog all day long, or yesterday either for that matter.”
“I live on the next block. Will you call me if you see her?” She handed Bob a card.
“It’s a her? Your dog is a her?”
She frowned at this and looked past Bob’s shoulder into the house. He moved to block her view.
“Yes, a her, she’s a collie. Do you know what a collie looks like?”
“Rin Tin Tin?”
“You should have named her Lassie then, or Barney.”
“I named her Yoga. She’s a collie. Call me if you see her.”
Bob thought she was going to hit him, but she left him a warm smile
instead. He closed the door and read the card: Emily
Duggan. Emily is a nice name, Bob thought to himself. He
had never noticed her or her dog before in the neighborhood.
He popped the closet door open and Cucumber greeted Bob like a long
lost buddy. She pranced and rubbed against his legs. Bob
returned her affection with hearty pets and baby talk. She licked
his face. Bob hugged her. When his wife was alive they had
a dog. Cucumber plopped down on the living room rug. Bob
sat next to her and stroked her ears. He hadn’t felt so loved and
so needed in years.
Cucumber inched closer to Bob and got comfortable. She flattened
her chin on the rug and let out a sigh. Bob looked out the
window. Cucumber napped.
Bob peered up and down the street. He checked the back yard then
stood in the middle of the living room with Cucumber at his feet.
He enjoyed this moment. He listened to her breathe.
Bob picked up his landline and dialed Emily’s number.
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James Byrne writes
and directs short films, writes flash fiction, teaches screenwriting at
Metropolitan State University, and lives in St. Paul.